Thursday, September 9, 2010

ARC Review: CRAZY is as CRAZY does...

THE RUNDOWN:
CRAZY written by Han Nolan will hit stores on September 13, 2010 and is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group (whew! That was a mouthful!)

SUMMARY:
Growing up is hard for any fifteen year old, but for Jason Papadopoulos, life isn’t just unbearable. It’s CRAZY.

Jason’s mother is dead, taken from her family lightening quick by a stroke while out hiking. With her gone, care of his mentally unstable father rests on Jason’s shoulders. There is no one who can help. He has no other family and no friends. He is utterly alone…well, except for the cast of characters who inhabit Jason’s head. Imaginary friends who help him deal with the insanity that his life has become.

There is Crazy Glue, the snide one, who always has some snarky remark no matter how stressful or emotive the situation. Aunt Bee, the mother hen, who wants nothing more than to feed Jason cherry cobbler and tell him that everything will be just fine. And FBG (Fat Bald Guy) who is always pointing out the little faults and minor plot points that the others miss, like any good movie critic might do. Sexy Lady spends all her time assuring Jason that he is, in fact, very attractive to members of the opposite sex, and then, of course, there is the Laugh Track…the studio audience who doesn’t do much more than oh, ah, and laugh at the least appropriate times.

With all these voices shouting away in his head, it’s no wonder Jason worries that he might already be riding the crazy train with dear old dad.

Jason is doing okay, though. Everything is fine—at least according to him—until he gets called to task for a minor, if annoying, habit he’s taken up in one of his classes. The teacher has finally had enough of his antics and sends him to meet with the school psychologist, who in turn requires him to participate in a twice weekly group therapy session.

Now, Jason is walking a fine line. No one can know about Dad’s condition, how they are living, the friends in his head, or even his job moonlighting as the school newspaper’s anonymous advice columnist. He’s swimming in dangerous waters, and soon, Jason finds himself sinking, with no lifeline in sight.

MY FINDINGS:
CRAZY is one of those novels that you start reading for the pure entertainment value it provides, but once you are in, you can’t help but root for this boy as he fights to keep some semblance of sanity amidst the chaos that surrounds him. You want to see him succeed in keeping his family together, but you also want to weep for the loss of his childhood, as he was thrust into the role of the parent when he should have been the child, young and foolish.

The cast of characters in Jason’s head keep you constantly on the verge of laughter or tears…sometimes both. The group of kids in therapy with him all have their own sad tales, and as Jason comes to know them and their individual issues, so do you. Each character, no matter their role in this story is well-developed and fully three-dimensional. And, while Jason’s is the main story, the one you are focused on, you want to know how these other characters’ lives are changing and growing right along with his.

CRAZY delivers on all points. I finished this novel with no loose threads dangling in front of my face, mocking me with ‘what ifs’. The ending was wholly satisfying and hopeful. Everything that happened to and with Jason throughout the book, everything that made him grow and change was real and believable. For me, this was an emotionally charged novel that had me thinking long after the last page was read.